Castle Access

10 Essential Safety Tips for Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts can help to make the job of accessing high-up areas in your factory, warehouse or other commercial or industrial buildings a breeze. That said, the use of these mobile elevated working platforms (MEWPs) is not without associated risks. As with any machinery designed to assist with work performed at elevation, improper use can be hazardous and, in some cases, even life-threatening. Your scissor lift needs to be approached with care, and it should ideally be operated by someone who has ample prior experience with this type of machinery. 

Checking the weather conditions if you are operating outdoors, ensuring your operator communicates clearly with other staff members in the work area, and driving safely are common safety precautions. However, if you plan to buy or hire dedicated height access equipment, you may need more information to ensure a safe and successful work environment. 

To help with this process, we have prepared ten scissor lift safety tips for you to keep in mind.


  • Proper training 

Perhaps the most important tip we have today is to ensure that the person operating the scissor lift has received adequate training – WorkSafe New Zealand recommends Unit Standard 23960v1 training for all people operating scissor lifts. This training covers the operation of the machine, the hazards involved, the safety measures to be taken while working, and a bit of knowledge around correct emergency protocols. 

It is also important to note that insurance companies may refuse to cover claims in cases where a scissor lift has been operated by anyone who has not been properly trained. If you are stuck for an operator and plan to hire a scissor lift for one-off use, a good rental company should be able to help you find a certified operator to take care of your work efficiently and safely.

  • Inspect the lift

If you are going to buy your own scissor lift, you should approach its care as you would any other vehicle; it must be regularly inspected and maintained to remain in top shape. Before each use, and ideally, every few months, look for any signs of wear and tear, malfunctions, worn-out tyres, leaks in the hydraulic system, loose or missing parts, and any other signs of damage. 

Also, ensure all safety features like guardrails and anchor points for the safety harness are intact (more on this below). Your operator should be qualified to flag any issues and take the necessary measures to fix them. 

  • Checking guardrails & safety harnesses

Guardrails act as barriers that stop the operator from falling in case of a misstep, which is why your scissor lift should have them installed on its platform. As mentioned in the previous point, your guardrails need to be inspected every time you use your access equipment. 

Your operator should also use a full-body safety harness to secure themselves to an anchor point on the platform; this provides an additional layer of safety should a guardrail come loose or fall off during operation. 

  • Respecting load limits

Every piece of access equipment has a maximum load capacity specified by its manufacturer. This is the most weight the machine can take while still operating efficiently. It is important to note that this number includes the combined weight of the machine operator, tools and any materials on the platform. 

You should never exceed this limit when using the MEWP. Remember to consult the operating manual or check with the access equipment hire company for correct information before commencing tasks at height.

  • Operating on a level surface

Generally, scissor lifts should be only used on a stable, level surface. Uneven terrain and inclines pose a high risk of tipping the machine over and seriously injuring the operator. 

When you need to work outdoors, on a farm or construction site where the ground is uneven, you should use more specialised equipment like rough terrain scissor lifts to offer better purchase and stability under these conditions. 

  • Positioning 

In addition to using the machine on level ground, proper positioning of a scissor lift is essential to prevent it from tipping. Some lifts have outriggers or stabilisers that can be deployed to help level them, so if your machine has these, make sure to engage them for greater stability before you start elevating the platform for work. 

  • Avoid overreaching

While it can be tempting to cut corners and try overreaching areas from the platform of your scissor lift, this can be a recipe for disaster. Overreaching can cause the machine’s overall centre of gravity to shift, which may cause it to topple. 

It is always advisable to stay within the confines of the guardrails and reposition the lift whenever you need to safely reach an inaccessible spot. 

  • Knowing emergency procedures

A good scissor lift operator should know what to do in case of an emergency. 

For instance, if the equipment malfunctions or a power failure occurs, the operator should know how to lower themself to level ground safely. An experienced machine operator who is handling a specific piece of equipment for the first time should also be sure to go through the manual to understand the best approach to emergency procedures.

  • Avoid obstacles

This may seem obvious, but it is crucial to be aware of overhead obstacles and maintain a safe distance when elevating yourself to a height. Obstacles may include overhanging structures, power lines and tree branches – among others. The MEWP should be positioned to avoid colliding with these when using the platform. 

  • Follow manufacturer guidelines

And finally, you should always follow the operating guidelines and recommended practices put together by the scissor lift manufacturer in the dedicated manual. This tip is not limited to operations; you should also adhere to these guidelines while carrying out any maintenance work on the equipment. 

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Please note that this list is by no means exhaustive; these are just some of the common precautions to be followed while using a scissor lift. For model-specific guidelines, feel free to reach out to us. Implement these tips and ensure a secure scissor lift operation. Remember: safety first!